Apr 18

Last week we buried our nephew Steve, Brother Fran’s boy.  He lost his battle with cancer, at the young age of 53.  His dad, our eldest brother, died the same way, but made it a few years longer.

Steve was always a quiet, polite, hard-working sort, just a pleasure to be around.  Whatever was going on: hunting deer, cutting wood, constructing, whatever, he was always there.  Kinda kept in the background, didn’t have much to say, but he did his share with no complaints.  When you did get him in a conversation, he was knowledgeable, polite, with a quiet dry humor and a shy smile.  Just a good guy.  If he didn’t quite know what was going on, he would pitch in anyway, and quickly figure out how and where.

Steve worked hard and played hard and enjoyed life.  He spent his free time white-water kayaking, hunting, fishing, and reading.  He was devoted to his Mother, especially after his Father’s death, and spent as much time with her as he could.  He was one of the good ones.

We will all miss Steve.

Mar 10

stalking the snowsnake

Had a call the other day from Mikey, my barber, at the popular Log Cabin Barber Shop in North Syracuse, NY, about Snow Snakes. We had been discussing the snow snake recently, and he brought up the subject in his shop among a number of his customers. Now most of those guys are hunters, ice fishermen, snowmobilers, and such, but they insisted that the snow snake did not exist. Perhaps they will learn the truth the hard way.

My experience with the elusive snowsnake goes ‘way back to when I grew up on the Tug Hill.  You could always find signs of their passing in the snow covered forests.  Then we spent a lot of time snowmobiling the Tug in the ’60′s and ’70′s, and tracks of the snake were everywhere.  I think they were drawn to the trails of the snowmobilers, maybe by the garbage and empty containers.  Or maybe it was just that more and more humans were invading their wintry lair with those noisy machines.  And at our Montague hunting camp, there was usually snow on the ground, and you always saw the snow snake tunnels near camp in the mornings.  Were they searching for food scraps, or perhaps lurking to accost the unwary hunter who stepped outside in his longjohns to look at the stars?

For those who have never encountered the snowsnake, let me tell you that you are very unlikely to see one, but you may see evidence of his passage.  Look near the trails for a round or near-round hole in the deep snow, surrounded by a yellowish border.  If it is very fresh, you may detect a faint sulpher odor.  The elusive snow snake has been and gone.  This tunnel may be his trail thru the snow as he hunts for food, or the entrance to his undersnow lair: I have never stuck a hand in to explore it.

What does this mysterious reptile look like, you may ask?  I am not sure that I ever actually seen one, but those who claim to know describe it as being anywhere from 1 to 6 feet long, and covered in a shiny fur of white or pale yellow.  You will see his beady black eyes, and perhaps a black tip on his tail.  It is easy to see that the snake could easily be mistaken for an ermine or weasel in his winter phase.  Do not be fooled.

I have read reports of the snow snake in many of our northern regions, including Manitoba, Michigan, Northern Ontario, and of course, Northern New York.  No doubt they also inhabit New England as well.  Early Native American tribes , such as the Abenacki and Haudenosaunee, apparently knew of the snake, and even had a winter game that involved throwing a 6-foot sharpened stick or spear thru the snow.  Or were they actually throwing it AT the snowsnake to drive him from his snowy tunnel?

I have read other reports, and seen vague photos, of alleged snowsnakes lurking in trees, coiled around snowy branches, perhaps basking in the sparse winter sun, or waiting for an unsuspecting victim to pass underneath.

Is the snow snake dangerous, you may well ask?  I can find no record of human fatalities involving this reptile, but over the years there have been any number of snowmobilers, snowshoers, skiiers, trappers, and such, found frozen in the snow in remote areas.  Did they freeze to death, were they victims of physical ailments, or perhaps victims of snakebite?  Who can say?

With so many more snowmobilers and other outdoor adventurers out in the forests today, I am surprised that there are not more reports of snowsnakes coming in, maybe even some photos.  (I did have a photo of a snowsnake tunnel somewhere in my 35mm slide files, but don’t seem to be able to find it.  Hmmmm.)  My theory is that everyone seems to be traveling so much further and faster these days, with the 100 mph snowmobiles and all, that they just don’t notice all that goes on around them.  Or is the snow snake no longer there?  Perhaps a victim of global warming?  Perhaps this elusive critter does not exist at all.  Like the mythical Saskquatch and the mysterious black panther, we want to believe he is out there, even if there is no hard evidence that he exists.  This demands further studies.  I would love to hear from anyone with experience with these mysterious reptiles.



Oct 29
Another Pitcher Hill buck 2008

Another Pitcher Hill buck 2008

I would like to be able to tell you that our club had this ol’ buck all photographed, patterned, predicted, and tagged with a cute name like “Crabby” or “The Craw” and already the stuff of legend around our Pitcher Hill Camp.  I would like to tell you that. But no, up to the second day of the deer season, no one had even seen him, unless maybe a couple years back when he was a little cowhorn spike.  He had even eluded, obviously, the nighthunting road hunters that regularly patrol our land.  Although he had apparently been injured some time the year before, causing that unusual lobster claw antler.

As whitetail bucks go, this one was not a monster, especially for a Tug Hill buck.  Certainly not Boone & Crockett class, or even NY Big Buck Club.  He weighed about 200 pounds alive, not a real monster in an area where 250 pounders are not uncommon.  His typical antler carried 4 long even points with good mass, and he probably would have had a spread of 20 or 22 inches if the right antler had matched.  A good wallhanger trophy, especially on The Tug.  The other antler, however, grew straight forward, with a lobster claw fork at the end.  An unusual trophy.

Our usual hunting style is to post a few of our hunters on known deer trails and escape routes, then have 1 or 2 hunters walk quietly thru an area and try to move the deer.  It is best to know the area, and after 50 years or so of hunting these woods, we pretty much know where the deer like to bed and which way they will go.  Usually. Obviously our bud Brucie got too close to this buck, and he decided to leave the area.

One of the fun parts of deer hunting is getting together and making a plan, revising and honing that plan, then trying to carry it out successfully. A lot depends on the wind, weather, and the experience of the hunters in your group. The hard part is getting the deer to co-operate. This time it worked to perfection, and the deer exited the Pitcher Swamp headed right to Jim, antlers gleaming proudly in the sunlight. It would be hard to say who was more surprised when they met, but Jim recovered first, and another hunt ended successfully. It is so great when a plan comes together.

Oct 14

It was one of those perfect October days, not too hot, not too cold, sunny and bright. I decided to go in early to my deer stand, located at the edge of one of our Tug Hill farm fields. I took along a Louis L’Amour book, got my rifle and camera ready, and laid back for a few hours. This is the part of deer hunting I really enjoy. After awhile, a big doe and twin fawns joined me, and I watched them cavorting on the field for an hour or so, hoping that the buck I knew was in the neighborhood would join them. Just before dark, a pack of hunting coyotes started to make music in the nearby woods, and my deer eased off the field. Although I knew there would be no more deer today, I stayed until the light was gone, then unloaded my rifle, packed my gear, and climbed down from the stand. As I started the half-mile trek across the fields to camp, I could suddenly hear the hunting calls of the coyotes in the trees to my right, and also on my left. Were they hunting me? Even with a rifle in hand,it makes one feel very alone out there. As an instinctive shiver went down my back and the hairs stood up on my neck, I stuffed a clip back in my deer rifle and played my light around the field, looking for shining eyes. But no, as I stood alone in the darkened field for a while, the melodious calls of the hunters faded in another direction. Some unlucky hare was probably the target this night. A welcome full Hunter moon arose, shedding some light on the field. However, I walked just a bit faster as I headed for the distant lights of the farmhouse.

Sep 5

Adirondack Buck

Adirondack Buck

OL’ TIGE

The other day I was doing some wandering on Google, wasting time, and I came across this great piece of poetry. Brought back some memories of one of our most memorable deer hunts, gosh, some 50 years ago now. I remember like it was last year.

My brothers Lee and Jim were still teens, and I was just back from the Cold War. Deer were scarce on Tug Hill after a few tough winters, and we had been exploring some promising hunting grounds in the Adirondacks. We borrowed a neighbor’s WWII jeep, and Brother Dick’s ’52 Chevy pickup with his homemade camper, and set out for a November hunt. More about that later, maybe.

We were camped near Pico Mountain, and to get there one had to drive about 10 miles of gravel road beyond Brantingham Lake, then 4 or 5 miles of log roads into the woods. Lee and I had been in camp for a few days, and came out to pick up Jim at Brantingham. On our journey back to camp, we were ambushed by a jolly group of hunters on the Partridgeville Road, who insisted we join them in their camp, where a little party was going on. Their senior camper-he seemed ancient, but surely wasn’t much older than I am now-stood on a chair, bourbon in hand, and recited for us verbatim this very funny poem-we thought at the time he was making it up-and it has stayed with us all this years. I have never found it in print until now. Not sure who the author was.

Ready?

THE PISSING DOG
A farmer’s dog came into town,
His Christian name was Tige;
His mother showed her pedigree,
It was noblesse oblige.
And as he trotted down the street,
It was wonderful to see
Him piss against each corner,
And Diss against each tree.
He pissed against each gateway,
And pissed against each post;
For pissing was his specialty,
And pissing was his boast.
The city dogs looked on amazed,
In growing helpless rage;
To see a simple country dog,
The pisser of his age.
[9]



Some thought that he a king might be,
Of legend long forgot;
Whose asshole shone like burnished gold,
And smelled like berganot.
Then each one smelled him critically,
They smelled him two by two;
But the country dog in high disdain,
Stood still until they were through.
Then just to show his mettle,
That he did not care a damn,
He trotted to a grocery store,
And pissed upon a ham.
He pissed upon a child’s bare leg,
He pissed upon the floor;
Till the grocer with a bull’s-eye kick,
Sent him pissing through the door.
Behind him all the city dogs
Lined up with instinct true,
To start a pissing carnival,
And see the stranger through.
[10]



They showed him every pissing place
They had about the town,
And started in with many a wink
To piss the stranger down,
They sent for champion pissers
In training and condition,
Who sometimes did a pissing stunt,
Or pissed for exhibition.
But Tige was pissing merrily,
With hind leg hoisted high;
When most were hoisting legs in bluff,
But pissing mighty dry,
Then Tige sought out new pissing ground,
By piles of scrap and rust;
Till even the boldest pissers there
Pissed a little spurt of dust.
Then followed free hand pissing,
With fancy flirts and flings,
Like “double drop” and “gimlet twist,”
And all those graceful things*
[11]



So on and on went the pissing dog,
With shining amber rill,
Till the boldest pisser of them all
Was pissed to a dead standstill.
But never a wink gave the country dog,
Nor bark, nor growl, nor grin;
But pissed his journey out of town
As he came pissing in,
.

Jan 28

I have often heard stories about this happening-to others, of course, but one never really believes it. Like winning the lottery. I call it the Dall Deweese Story.

About 20 years ago, I was browsing a garage sale, as I like to do, and found in a shoe box of miscellaneous stuff a couple of old knives, which I bought for $1. One was a Case fishknife, which I gave to my bud, and the other a stag-handled hunting knife that looked as if it had a good blade. Maybe a good swoppin’ knife, at least.  I cleaned it up some, found a sheath that fit it, and sharpened the blade. After using it on a couple of deer, I dubbed it “Little Ugly” and made it my favorite deer knife.

Just recently, I decided to sell on ebay some of the knives I had accumulated over the years. I mean, how many hunting knives can you carry? When I researched Ugly, I found a couple of similar knives that told me this one might have collector value, so I did some internet searching. A few people have helped me out and shared their knowledge, and it seems my dollar knife may be worth $1000 to $2500. Seems it is a MSA Marble Dall Deweese, made around 1912, and highly prized by some collectors. Deweese was a famous Colorado/Alaskan guide & hunter back around 1900, and he supposedly designed the knife that bears his name.

Now what? It just doesn’t seem right somehow to be opening deer and bean cans with a $2500 knife, and what if I should lose it in the woods? Hopefully, I can find it a new owner who will appreciate it for its history, and I have to find a new favorite. It would make a great start on my own collection, but I am too old for that. So, farewell, faithful friend, we had some great times together.

The Deweese

I have been meaning to do a follow-up on this, now that we are finished moving and selling most everything we owned.  Here goes.

I did some research on the internet and finally found an expert who authenticated my antique, and valued at around $900.  I considered marketing it on ebay.  I had been emailing with a lady who said she wanted the knife as a gift for her husband, so we made a deal on it.  So now “l’il Ugly” has a new home and I was able to pay some bills.  For forty bucks on ebay, I found a replica knife with wood handle, which I may carry as my deer knife.  I always did like the style.  Except that the first time I put the new knife in its sheath, it sliced thru the bottom stitching and almost thru my hand!  Small wonder few of the original sheathes are still around.

Jan 18

Now that I am retired and have some free time on my hands, I have been thinking of putting together some stories into a Tug Hill book.  I have 25 years of our camp logs, lots of photos, and lots of memories, and it would be fun to put them on paper.  Someone might enjoy them.  It is easy to get published these days.  Now I just have to come up with some motivation.

Dec 14

I have a few of my photos shared on a site called “flickr”, and they have a new thing where I can maybe put them on my own website. We’ll give it a try:

www.flickr.com

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